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Passes and Snubs at the Auction at Graceland

Lot 41 One of the Movie Posters in set

There were twelve lots that did not sell at the January 7 Auction at Graceland. Four items had a minimum bid so high that not one person bothered making a bid. The other eight all had the minimum bid covered and five to ten additional bids running the price up even higher, but the sellers decided it wasn’t enough and told the auctioneer to pass. Some of these items have an interesting story, so here is a review.

Guitar Elvis Used for the January 14, 1973 Aloha from Hawaii Special:

Lot 24 Stage-Used Guitar from January 14, 1973 Aloha from Hawaii

In all the pre-auction publicity, this guitar was ballyhooed as the cream of the crop. The auction website had ten paragraphs of praise, history, and technical details. This is the third one:

“Elvis Presley’s 1969 Custom Gibson Ebony Dove guitar is certainly one of the most culturally significant and celebrated guitars in all of music history. Elvis wielded this iconic instrument in dozens and dozens of concerts from November 1971 until September 1973 and then again in July of 1975, before famously handing it to a fan in the front row one night in Asheville, North Carolina. The Ebony Dove was the most photographed and widely seen of any of Elvis’ guitars as he played it during the January 1973 Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite concert broadcast.”

The website also gushed this praise, “There is no more important icon of rock ‘n’ roll history than Elvis’ beloved Gibson Ebony Dove.” As if to prove their point and boost up the bidding, the website chronicled the top-selling guitars in history. Some are:

John Lennon’s Gibson J-160E Acoustic Guitar — $2.4 million

Jimi Hendrix 1968 Stratocaster from Woodstock — $2 million to Paul Allen of Microsoft

Eric Clapton’s Fender Stratocaster “Blackie” — approximately $959,500

Stevie Ray Vaughn’s 1965 Fender Stratocaster “Lenny” — $623,500

George Harrison’s 1964 Gibson SG — $570,000

Lot 24 Stage-Used Guitar from January 14, 1973 Aloha from Hawaii

The minimum bid on this guitar was $150,000, and the estimate was $300-500,000. The minimum was passed easily, and a total of ten bids ran it up to $270,000. When it stalled there and the auctioneer was about to finalize, “Going once, going twice,” there was a pause as a message came into his earbuds. Then he announced, “This is a pass.” The owners weren’t happy with $270,000 and pulled it out of the auction.


1969 Agreement Letter Signed by Elvis Presley and Colonel Parker:

Lot 76 Agraaement Letter Signed by Elvis

This has to be one of the dullest examples of an Elvis autograph you will ever find. The full name of the auction listing was, “1969 Agreement Letter Signed by Elvis Presley and Colonel Parker Regarding Advances and Royalties for 4 RCA Camden Albums to be Released in 1970 and 1971” Need I say any more?

Lot 76 Agraaement Letter Signed by Elvis - Pg 2

The owner must have been really proud of this item. He set a minimum bid of $4,000, which costs the buyer $5,000 counting the auction premium. Potential bidders probably thought they could get several other good Elvis autographs for $5,000 and never bid at all. Way overpriced.


Movie Poster Collection:

Lot 41 All of the Elvis Movie Posters

When I first saw this collection, I thought it would easily blow past the minimum bid of $6,000. After all, it contained the posters for all 31 of Elvis theatrical movies plus the two documentaries Elvis: That’s the Way It Is and Elvis on Tour. It had to be a long, huge endeavor to collect all of these individually.

My enthusiasm dropped when I read the lot details. Only eighteen of these are full sized movie posters, but at least that includes the most valuable ones Love Me Tender and Loving You.

Lot 41 Love Me Tender Poster

But there were also a lot of half-sheet posters like Jailhouse Rock and King Creole.

Lot 41 Two Half-Sheet Elvis Movie Posters

In addition to Viva Las Vegas, there were three other half-sheets oriented the other way and called inserts.

Lot 41 Viva Las Vegas Insert Poster

The rest were even smaller lobby cards like these four.

Elvis Movie Lobby Cards

This collection easily generated the minimum bid, and a total of ten bids pushed the price even higher. But the seller had expected to get the estimate of $12-15,000 and wasn’t ready to let it go for less, so he pulled the lot from the auction.

If they were all full sized movie posters, the price tag would be $20,000 or more. Maybe the owner will replace some of those small lobby cards with posters and put it up for auction again with a higher tab.

1977 Tour Book and Promotional Poster:

Lot 122 1977 Promotional Poster

Different Elvis items are often combined to make a more attractive offering, but this combo is strange. The promotional poster is a large image of Elvis and seven smaller drawings of him surrounding it. I can’t remember ever seeing this drawing before. It contains the printed signature of Fred Rothenbush 77,” is numbered 985/1200. It is nicely presented in a wooden frame and measures approximately 25 by 30 inches. So, it is a pretty good collectible.

Lot 122 1977 Tour Folder

The second item in this lot has no connection to the poster. It is yellow folder used by Col. Parker and is labeled “Elvis Presley Concerts 1977 Tour #2.” It contains all of the pertinent information on the concert dates, locations, and show times. The folder is further divided by tabbed sections for each city with more specific information, including details for the building, box office contact, concessions, security, hotel, and transportation. Some pages include handwritten notes.

The minimum bid for the set was $1,500 and nobody bothered to bid. The seller may have been better off to sell each item separately. They seem like they might appeal to collectors with two different priorities.

Poker Chips Used on the Lisa Marie Plane:

Lot 99 Poker Chips Used on Plane the Lisa Marie

Sam Thompson, Elvis’ bodyguard, ended up with these poker chips after Elvis died in 1977. They are accompanied by a letter of authenticity from him that said, “I flew on the Lisa Marie, Elvis’ personal aircraft, many times, and these poker chips were on that plane for Elvis’ use.”

It surprised me when this item got a total of ten bids running the price well past the $1,500 minimum bid, and then the seller pulled it. Seems like Graceland would have purchased it to put on display in the Lisa Marie.


Collection of Elvis Presley Christmas and Eater Cards:

Lot 22 Collection of Elvis Christmas Cards

The auction website does not state that this is a complete collection, but it does include seventeen Christmas cards and three Easter cards. I figured it would have no trouble meeting the minimum bid of $1,500, but I was wrong. I’m surprised no collectors valued them that much.


September 1, 1957 Seattle, Washington Concert Ticket Stub and Other Goodies:

Lot 19 Ticket, Button and Other Stuff

Elvis’ career was going full blast when he appeared at Sick’s Seattle Stadium wearing the famous gold lame coat. One fan assembled some items to save with her ticket stub from the concert — an “I Like Elvis” button, a souvenir photo folio, and several newspaper articles and ads for the concert. I love the way one newspaper writer put it.

“A shrieking, screaming mass of ‘tingling’ teen-age worshipers squealed their devotion last night to their idol, the writhing, wiggling country-singer, Elvis Presley, at Sick’s Seattle Stadium. … From the tensely awaited moment when Presley made his first quivering bump to his last vigorous grind, wave on wave of crazed female shrieks arose from the stadium. At the climax of his performance with his smash hit ‘Hound Dog,’ which Presley described as ‘the Elvis Presley national anthem,’ he wiggled himself flat on his back. The reaction to this gymnastic was unimaginable bedlam.”

A shrieking, screaming mass of ‘tingling’ tean-age worshippers. What a great line.

Lot 19 Concert Ad for Elvis at Sisk's Seattle Stadium

I don’t remember seeing this ad before. It’s interesting that hey used a drawing of Elvis rather than a photo.

So, this eclectic lot had no trouble going past the minimum bid of $600 with a total of six bids. However, as with the other items noted here, the seller wanted something in the estimated range ($1,200 – 1,500) and when he saw that wasn’t happening, he pulled the lot. I’m not sure that was a smart move, but we’ll find out when the items shows up again.


Unless there is some interesting Elvis news in the next week, there will be another article on the Auction at Graceland coming up.


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